Belfast Telegraph

Let's not give dissident republicans chance to play victims' card

By Liam Clarke

How can people go on the radio, refuse to condemn violence, and then shout paramilitary slogans on the radio?

The Anti-Internment League, which intends breaching directions on a controversial parade on Sunday, is not behind the door when it comes to doing any of these things.

On the Nolan Show yesterday Padraic McCotter of eirigi, one of the groups that supports the Anti-Internment League, did just that. Should eirigi and other such groups be made illegal or prosecuted for hate crime?

It could be counter-productive. Eirigi is not a violent group, though it supports prisoners jailed for politically-motivated terrorism. There are therefore some grounds for hoping it will eventually take a constitutional political direction as Sinn Fein did. That path should not be closed.

"The law for the past 40 years has been very much against republicans, this is only one march in a year," said Mr McCotter, adding: "I will never condemn republican political violence."

Barring or making him an outlaw would justify his claims to his followers. The history of Northern Ireland shows that heavy military responses to illegal demonstrations have generally been counter-productive.

Mind you, there are limits. People deserve to be prosecuted for hate speech where they call for violence or demonise people. Failing to condemn or keeping quiet does not cross that bar.

We only need to read the Anti-Internment League statement announcing that it would breach the Parades Commission determination by turning up in the city centre in peak shopping hours instead of earlier in the day, when the shops were closed, to see its strategy.

It said it was intended to show "the vibrant, energetic and genuine radical republican ethos of opposition to State torture and repression".

To do so it needs a bit of State repression, which has been in short supply lately.

In reality such groups aren't oppressed unless they break the existing law, when they are prosecuted. That is the way it should stay, anything else risks gaining them support and sympathy.

Republicans - dissident and mainstream - know well how to play the victim card.

Belfast Telegraph


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